Ralph Hannah and Manuel Veth –
Too short, too thin, even the way he walked and smiled he didn’t seem like your typical athlete—those were the first impressions of Miguel Almirón when the Futbolgrad Network saw him in the Paraguay U-20s team at the 2013 Sudamericano.
Without the ball he seemed a bit lost tactically, a European scout commented to me at the time that it was probably why he wouldn’t move to the old continent, but you would forget all of that when he had the ball at his feet.
Great acceleration, an eye for a pass and always looking to make a defining impact on the attacking move he stood out in a very talented side that included Derlis González, Rodrigo Alborno and Brian Montenegro.
Paraguay went on to finish second in that tournament and qualify for the U-20s World Cup, yet Almirón didn’t breakthrough into the Cerro Porteño first team as hoped. Chiqui Arce had put more faith in experienced midfielders like Julio Dos Santos and Jonathan Fabbro.
The promotion of Tiburón Torres to first team coach mid-way into 2015 was the defining moment for Almirón who had already begun seeing more first team football. But now as part of an attacking side with less emphasis on marking and pressing he could really flourish. Playing in a free role that saw him drift in from the left hand side in front of the back four, Almirón scored 4 goals in the final 5 games of the season as Cerro Porteño romped to the title.
Miguel Almirón was one of the key players at Club Atlético Lanús
It was a fitting send off as by August he was off to Lanús, in September he made his debut for the Paraguay national team in a friendly against Chile, to date his only participation for the Albirroja.
Now after one-and-a-half seasons at Lanús the 22-year-old Paraguayan attacking midfielder Miguel Almirón could become the first designated player for Atlanta United in Major League Soccer.
As Nicolás Miremont has explained in his wonderful piece on Club Atlético Lanús Almirón was one of the key players in Lanús 2016 4:0 transition championship victory over San Lorenzo de Almagro at the Estadio Monumental.
Almirón was one of three key players for Lanús in midfield last season, with the other two being Iván Marcone, who was the main centre midfielder, and Román Martínez and Almirón playing more on the wings.
They were three very different players, but when combined, they provided a blend of solidity with Marcone standing right in the middle of the park and covering the team’s rear side. Martínez was in charge of the creative moments, but it was the Paraguayan Miguel Almirón, who showed that he is a star in the making.
Miguel Almirón – A move to Russia seemed all but done
Almirón in fact scored the second goal in the match against San Lorenzo, and the Paraguayan showed throughout the match that he was destined to play at a bigger club either in Argentina, there were rumours that he could join league rivals River Plate from Buenos Aires, or make the move across the Atlantic to move to a European league—several clubs in Spain expressed their interests.
Then a move to Eastern Europe to join Russia’s biggest club Zenit Saint Petersburg seemed the most likely move. In fact the Paraguayan Internet platform Hoy reported Zenit was the only club that has made a concrete offer for the midfielder.
Meanwhile ESPN has also confirmed on Twitter that a transfer from Lanús to Zenit was close, and would be completed within a week. Almirón told ESPN “Zenit” has made an offer to Lanús about my transfer. This is the most concrete offer of all. If the transition to the “Zenith” will take place, for me it will be a very big event in my life” – Almirón told ESPN radio. Sports.ru also suggested that Almirón will soon become a member of Zenit Saint Petersburg by introducing the Paraguayan national team player as a new member of Zenit.
In the end a move fell flat, as Zenit failed to sign the Paraguayan midfielder. Failure to Almirón in fact could explain why Zenit cancelled Axel Witsel’s transfer to Juventus Turin in the last minute.
Miguel Almirón’s surprise move to Major League Soccer
There were rumours that Zenit could once try to sign the midfielder during the winter break. Those rumours now appear off the table, as Almirón is making a surprise move to the Major League Soccer expansion franchise Atlanta United. TyCSports.com in Argentina has reported that Atlanta will pay $8.5 million to Lanús, and an additional fee to Cerro Porteño, the club holds 20% of the player’s rights.
It is somewhat surprising that a 22-year-old midfielder, who is in his prime in Argentina would move to the United States, rather than Europe. But Atlanta managed to sign former, Paraguay, FC Barcelona, and Argentina head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino, as the team’s first head coach in franchise history.
The Futbolgrad Network has learned that Almirón has already met with Tata Martino, and that a deal is imminent. A major figure in South American football Tata Martino was the key to make this deal happen, which shows the importance of signing a big name as your head coach and general manager in a league that still finds it difficult to attract players in their prime.
Ralph Hannah is Londoner living in Luque with a keen interest in Paraguayan football history and statistics. A frequent traveler throughout Latin America he attends games throughout the region and has written for a variety of publications and set up the first English-language blog on Paraguayan Football. When not in the Defensores del Chaco he’s looking after his 2 daughters. Follow Ralph on Twitter @paraguayralph.
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist, writer for Bundesliga.com, and podcaster for WorldFootballIndex.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States”, which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @homosovieticus.